WOODSTOCK — Emricson Park presented several challenges for runners competing in the IHSA 2A Woodstock Sectional on Saturday, with athletes finishing anywhere from 45 seconds to over a minute slower than their times in the regional circuit. That theme was consistent for the Rochelle Township High School student-athletes who raced at the sectional meet, with the Hubs finishing 18th out of 18 schools and junior Yuelma Ortiz taking 98th as an individual.
“It was a good learning experience for our athletes,” head coach Mark Zilis said. “The course was very difficult but our kids handled it really well. Our kids are really optimistic for next season. If we can add a few more runners, I think we can make it back to the sectional meet next season and finish in the middle of the pack. I think Yuelma has a chance to return to the sectional and possibly make the state meet next year if she continues to train hard.”
Junior David Wanner led the Hub varsity team in the sectional, finishing 124th with a time of 19:22.8 while senior Josue Huerta took 132nd in 20:06.8. Sophomore Parker Lenkaitis and senior Peter Forsberg weren’t far behind, placing 135th and 137th with respective times of 20:16.0 and 20:41.6. Sophomore Alex Burke, freshman Chris Hickey and sophomore Luis Pizano rounded out the team with times of 21:26.3 (139th), 22:16.7 (140th) and 22:59.4 (141th).
“I thought we took a good step toward seeing our boys team finally qualify for a state meet,” Zilis said. “Our kids ran decent races and it was a tough course with a lot of hills. A lot of the top finishers were about a minute behind where they were at the regionals and our athletes did about the same. I thought our boys finished with an optimistic view for the future.”
Ortiz ran a time of 21:47.7 as the only Lady Hub runner in the sectional meet. It was the second straight season Rochelle had an individual from the girls team qualify for the sectional meet, with Sara Johnson advancing during her junior season last year. Ortiz will likely return for her senior season next year as the No. 1 runner for Lady Hub team looking to grow its numbers.
“Yuelma had an outstanding season,” Zilis said. “She improved her times significantly and I thought the friendly competition between her and Sara for the top spot this season really helped motivate both of them to run faster and set new personal records. I think Yuelma has some hope that she could lower her time into the 19-minute range and potentially qualify for the state meet next year and I think that’s entirely possible if she continues to work hard.”